Pink meanies might sound like the name of a high school girl gang from the ’50s, but they are actually a recently discovered type of jellyfish. And lately, experts are urging Gulf Coast beachgoers from Alabama to Florida to watch out for the vividly-colored sea creatures.
These pink blobs show up near the shoreline every 10-12 years. They are drawn in by another type of jellyfish, moon jellies, which are the pink meanies’ favorite meal.
“In 2010 they found one out in the wild, a big pink meanie and brought it onto the boat, and they were able to pull out of its tentacles 22 moon jellies, and these moons were dinner plate size,” Dauphin Island Sea Lab (DISL) Marine Biologist Brian Jones told WPMI. “So if they’re eating that many moons, they’re going to grow really quickly.”
In 2016, the FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, part of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, shared a photo of a pink meanie seen near Inlet Beach in northwest Florida.
“Large numbers of these jellyfish were first observed in the Gulf of Mexico in 2000, and since then the species has been sighted infrequently in Gulf waters,” FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute wrote in the post. “The moon jellyfish (Aurelia sp.) is a favorite prey item for the pink meanie, and studies have found that they will voraciously feed on large aggregations of moon jellyfish that periodically bloom in the Gulf. In fact, the pink meanie may be better adapted to feeding on moon jellyfish than all previously studied moon jellyfish predators.”
Scientifically known as Drymonema larsoni, the jellyfish were named by a post-doctoral student at DISL named Keith Bayha about 20 years ago.
“Pink meanies first started showing up in the northern Gulf of Mexico in the early 2000s and were recorded by Monty Graham at DISL,” Bayha told DISL News. “Dr. Graham sent me samples for DNA analysis when I was a graduate student at the University of Delaware. I tried to use them for a study I was doing on the Lion’s Mane Jellyfish, whose family the pink meanie previously belonged to, but they were too different.”
Although they are certainly eye-catching, if you are on the Gulf Coast and spot one of these big, bright jellies, you’ll want to give it some distance. They can be huge (a pink meanie weighing over 50 pounds was reported on Dauphin Island in 2000), and they will sting.
Fortunately, their sting is not considered harmful to humans, nor is it terribly painful.
“I had my arm up to the elbow in a really large one we had collected and the sting was minor,” Bayha told DISL News. “My entire arm had a rash the next day, but it wasn’t bad at the time. They eat jellyfish so don’t need stinging cells full of toxins.”